The Apostles Creed and the later Nicene Creed are two important documents of theological summary and history. Both creeds reveal historic Christian assumptions about  who God is, and what is God doing. However there are aspects of the creeds that should be examined to help to define the difference in meaning of the names Jesus and Christ.

Apostles Creed.  –  “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy  Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell…”

In the Apostles Creed there is a sentence which reads, “born of the Virgin Mary,  suffered under Pontius Pilate….” What is important to realise that a single comma provides a yawning gap and represents the complete life of a divine man. However the Apostles Creed seems omit love, hope, forgiveness or service.

In an attempt to find a link between the name Jesus,  and the meaning of Christ, it is worth examining the importance of two people, Mary Magdalene and St. Paul, because both come to be  related to Jesus and Christ, especially Christ and the larger or Eternal meaning.

Mary Magdalene

First there is Mary Magdalene  a follower of Jesus when he came down to earth in  his humanity.  Mary Magdalene became close to Jesus, after he had cast out of her seven demons, and she was present at the crucifixion with Mary, the mother of Jesus , and she seems to have stayed close to Jesus’s mother to the very end.

Also Mary Magdalene was the first to see a man walking on the road away from the tomb where Jesus had been buried after the crucifixion, but unaware of who the person is. She had spoken earlier to two angels, but she does not recognise him and  assumes he is the gardener. (John  20:15).   She asks him why he moved  the body of Jesus. The risen Lord looks at her and simply says, ‘Mary’, and she instantly recognises his voice and trusts herself, saying; ‘Rabbuni’!  

Naturally she wants to rush forward  to draw him close to her, but. because he  has not fully risen and become the eternal Christ, he tells her not to touch him.  Nevertheless Mary knows, possibly through the love she had for him, she can instantly detect a change in him, or certainly sensed that his presence  was very different from when they had last been talking together.

It is important to note that it was a woman, Mary Magdalene who would be the first person to see and talk to Jesus as the risen Christ after leaving the tomb.  Mary was also the first to inform the disciples that she had seen the Lord.

At that time it was a  male dominated society, and it would continue to be the male disciples and the Jewish Rabbis who were going to ensure that the priesthood and ministry was undertaken by men. Nevertheless,  it was a  woman, who through her deep love for Jesus and her intuition was aware of the change in his presence, but perhaps not the implication of the new omnipresent Christ.

Of course Mary may have wanted to hold Jesus, but in fact she lets him lead her down another path to the larger and more powerful Christ, and as a result of the resurrection,  Jesus takes on a new role that means he must be every where as  an eternal Christ! Also Mary Magdalene’s unique position was not understood at all in the first century. However with Christ appearing first to Mary and to a woman after the resurrection, she did not see the significance of the change in Jesus, or grasp the fact that Mary Magdalene became  an important bridge between Jesus and the new eternal Christ.

Saint Paul

The second most important person to speak with Jesus Christ was Saul, using his Hebrew name and known for his ardent persecution of the Nazarenes.  He was a brilliant young Speaker and deliberately educated  in Jerusalem and a rising hope of the Pharisees. Saul did not know Jesus and had never met him, but now he was carrying a letter from the High Priest authorising him to persecute the new believers in Damascus.  He felt powerful as he walked with a spring in his step on the road to Damascus, until suddenly a blaze of light, so powerful he falls to the ground and unable to see for three days.

Then he heard a  voice saying, ‘ Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.’

A startled Saul says, “Who are you Lord?’

‘I am Jesus, the Nazarene whom you are persecuting.’  (Act 9:4)

This was a situation he could not have anticipated, and neither Saul or the people with him could  understand what exactly was happening, but they  led him by his hand with his eyes open, still unable to see.  As soon as he arrives in Damascus, he meets the   Jewish high priest called Ananias. After three  days his sight was restored by Ananias and the Holy Spirit.  Of course he was still known by his Hebrew name Saul, and to remind ourselves that he had never met Jesus, but from now he would be quickly transitioned in to the world of the “Risen Christ”. The new Paul would experience a fast conversion.

However, St Paul as we would eventually call him, later becomes so involved with the risen Christ, and then goes on to absorbs everything that Jesus has said  and did. Very soon Paul becomes  an ardent proclaimer of the teachings of Jesus, which unfortunately creates enemies. Of course Paul has a strong personality and is determined to bring his conversion and knowledge to the much wider audience of the gentile world.

Remember as St. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12 there are a variety gifts, but by the same spirit; just as there is one body that it is made up of many members.   

The four Gospels show a different emphasis when looking at both Jesus and also Christ;

  • Matthew emphasises  kingship
  • Mark emphasises ‘Servanthood’
  • Luke considered ‘Manhood’
  • John emphasises ‘GodHood’

Throughout the Gospels the emphasis  is  always  to show that Jesus is becoming more important, especially in the gospels of Luke and John which shows his presence is  becoming  bigger and bigger, in parallel with his suffering leading to his ultimate sacrifice.  In the beginning was the word and the word was with God. He was God in the beginning and through him all things were made. Without Him nothing was made that had been made.

It is also important to accept that St.Paul’s presence too, is  growing, and can be viewed as a great light and certainly he casts a great shadow of  messianic dimensions inspired by hope and belief in the Messiah.

It is important to remember that Jesus, the Devine being who became human, however after the resurrection became the eternal Christ in spirit. The greatness of the eternal Christ can be  gauged in the writings of St. Paul as shown in  the following:

2 Corinthians 8-9.     This is not meant as an order;  by telling you how keen others are I am putting you to the test. For you know how generous our Lord Jesus Christ has been: he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that through his poverty  you might became rich.

Philippians 2:6:11       For the first divine nature was his from the  first; yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God,  but made himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave. Bearing his human likeness, revealed in human shape, he humbled himself, and in obedience accepted even death – death on a cross.  Therefore God raised him to the heights and bestowed on him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – in heaven and on earth and in the depths- and every tongue confess, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.

Colossians 1 – 16:18.   In  him everything in heaven and  on earth was created, not only things visible but also the invisible orders of thrones, sovereignties, authorities and powers: the whole universe has been created through him and for him. And he exists before everything, and all things are held together for him. He is moreover, the head of the body, the church. He is its origin, the first to return from the dead, to be in all things alone.supreme.

Also, Paul in his letter to the Ephesians writes; “for our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers and the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness and the present forces of evil to be found in heavenly places.”

The fact that Paul stresses “Jesus is Lord” , he can see that Jesus had the power to overcome evil. Paul can see also that the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and that is a powerful force for all of us to believe in.

There are a variety of gifts, but the same spirit. There are a variety of services, but the same Lord. There are many forms of work, but all of them are the work of the same God. In each of us is manifested in the same particular way, for some useful purpose. One man through the spirit, has the gift of speech, while another by the power of the same spirit, can put the  the deepest knowledge into words. Another is granted faith, another healing.

The difference between the name Jesus and the eternal Christ can be described as follows; the name Jesus is the human side of the divine being, were as Christ is the eternal spirit after the resurrection.


10th February 2022

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